The United States as big as it is generally exports a lot of its music from the four corners; Seattle, New York, California and Florida. Of course there are a growing number of places within the country’s borders that are pushing out loads of new music and stretching the limits of the Prog genre and from Greenville, South Carolina comes Dale Simmons and his project, Exovex with his own brand of Prog aided with a display of brilliant talents by; Gavin Harrison and Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree), Josh Freese (NIN, Devo) and Keith Carlock (Sting, Steely Dan). A powerful combination of musicianship here and with an equally unique album cover of the universal fish-eye lens(Go Rush fans!) gives off a spacial feeling of an album that should stretch your mind as the music plays. Let’s find out together shall we?
“Stolen Wings” our opening track begins with a subtle and exploitative sounds that reach towards the very depths of space itself before we hear the twang of an electric guitar being strummed and then the rest of the band chiming in to signal we are on earth. Not what one often expects with an opening track but it’s slow beginnings and rise in to the clouds is a pleasant surprise in the age of Neo-Progressive albums. Makes you think back to when you first put on 1975’s Wish You Were Here Lp and said why is it so slow? But it’s all about the music here and this track delivers the grandiose scale of big sounds brilliantly. Despite the hired guns here it doesn’t sound like any of the bands that the other band members have played in which was another surprise to hear. The tempo/timbre changes are mild but the presence of the Prog is definitely alive and kicking here. The mix of electric and acoustic guitars with an offbeat drum track and vocal harmonies all blending together give the bass a solid street to walk down and the synths grace the track like silky waves and blankets it to the touch. The guitar solo reaches back and throws itself in to the nether reaches of space here as it bends and twines its way through the atmosphere soaring like a blade in the winds. The distant “am radio” vocals briefly come in and rush out giving it a spice and flare to the track before another cutting edge guitar solo as the song pulls it back slightly before it begins its descent to earth again and fades out to a stirring synth trail. “Metamorph” strolls in like a film noir soundtrack then we are graced with the tenor vocal that tells us the story held within the song’s surroundings. The use of effects enhance the flow of the song and add some wave-like motions to the track’s feel. In a shuffle beat to it the snap of the snare drums rims the song has a signature recognition to it as not only unique but incorporating multiple styles in one song and making it work. A dark track that pulls off the aforementioned film noir style as well as the darker side of Prog with its minor keys and varying time signatures. The song does metamorphosize in to various forms throughout its 5minutes and blends many facets of the instrumentation with impressive multi-tracking.
“Seeker’s Prayer” has the morse code blips entering at first then the synths layering nicely over top like the beginning of a ballet twirling about through the fog with a soft piano refrain to give it grace and presence. The guitar makes it way in like a chanting mantra as we hear in the background the pulsing synth buildup in an almost like “Another Brick in the Wall” bounce feel to it. The vocals have some mild slap back delay to them as the song drops in to full swing shortly after and shuffles along. Skipping across the music waters like a tossed stone the vocal harmonies keep it above the water as the music begins to lift up higher and higher. The synth solo captures the moment in electrified light as the vocals grind in to the ground and tear it up before the tempo shifts and the guitar solo leaps off the cliff and soars amongst the clouds with every note breathtaking as it pulls back so let the vocals return to the forefront. The start/stops and tempo/timbre changes are quick but keep the song riveted all the way through and the vocals are both mellow and metal here giving a great diversity to the sound and the song’s overall structure. “The Last Orbit” has a direct approach to it where it starts and just drives it straight through. It’s inclinations and heading straight for the sun feeling gives it a bolstered sense of a no BS song. Midway it pauses as if in a lull and floats almost aimlessly but goes right back in to the direct notion of getting to its destination. The rough and ruggedness of the musicianship here is great as the song slams it all down without holding anything back. The song has a sombre yet powerful force to it, the bold tones used here and the dedication to the driving force that becomes its catalyst to take it to the end of the song. A spearheaded guitar solo takes us to the last bars of the song and stabs repeatedly through your speakers making you lean in closer to feel the sting of each note then fades away with a synth warble that sounds like we’ve been pulled down in to the drain of space.
“Dead Reckoning” is anything but dead and has a classical higher 80’s style tone to the vocals and the spoken word in the background bringing back the idealistic tone of the 80’s and the dual personality vocal feel to it. The bounce in the music is bright and dark at the same time as it strikes out at times and pulls back others creating a Jekyll and Hyde duality to the tones and the blending of the two to live and breathe simultaneously. It bears its scars and shows off its exterior saying it has no fear here or anywhere. It begins one way and ends another making it a stand out track on the album aside form the fact that the whole album is brilliant regardless. It builds up and crashes down and builds up again creating waves and hills to climb and over take as we journey through this grand scale track that brings outs the vocals most powerful call yet. The middle discordant synth sounds are brief but show the altercation between light and dark in the song as it crescendos to a massive wall of sound as it reaches its nadir then comes back down to close out in a slide away drag out note finish. “Daylight (Silent Key)” the albums last song kicks it off with a dirty guitar intro and draws back as the vocals make their way in and take over and regale us with its tales. A quasi-ballad song that comes out as a grand scale musical onslaught to finish the album’s spectacular debut record. The most sentimental vocal on the album and you feel every word as it comes through in an emotional wave hitting you with each syllable precisely in the face. The guitar solo is straight out of the ground rip it up to the skies again but even more epic than the others as it has that “Comfortably Numb” feel to it as it makes its way through the world sounds and collides with giants and knocks them down with a crushing blow of notes and bends as it takes on anything in its way then silences out as the strain of fading through the sustain stretches on and on in to nothingness and the synths come in to play out a sombre dirge and the dark haunting sounds of cellos gravely play in the distance and echo and torment the airwaves as the song begins to slowly close its earthly tome and then, silence.
Exovex has certainly released a brilliant and grand debut record here and here’s to hearing more albums in the future! That’s a lot of “here” in one sentence, ok, say it three times fast now! But the record is well worth seeking out and putting in to your Prog Collective post haste! It’s certainly the sound of the Neo-Prog movement but also pays homage to its forefathers of the genre without question. We can only hope the the near future brings us another album by Exovex and the talents of Dale Simmons. Enjoy.